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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in perennial (10)


Hosta 'American Sweetheart', a Designer Perennial

I went shopping for Hosta, planning to arrange several in a row alternating with Buxus Green Gem. I had expected to buy Hosta Patriot but the nursery had sold out of that variety. Finding a replacement was going to be a challenge. There were over 50 varieties to choose from.

I wandered up and down the aisles passively waiting for one variety to jump out and grab my attention. And there it was. The moment I laid eyes on it, I knew I had discovered a special Hosta. “American Sweet Heart” is a very distinguished looking plant. It has a very elegant shaped leaf with a striking variegation that holds up all season long. It grows well from zones 3a to 8b in light shade to partial and full shade.

When I saw the label “Designer Hosta” I expected to pay more for it and I did. It was priced 20% higher than all of the others. Surprisingly, it looks 50% better than any of the other Hosta varieties growing nearby. It makes for a very majestic composition with the Buxus.

“American Sweetheart” is part of the prestigious Designer Hosta Collection put together by specialists who know everything there is to know about Hostas. To be considered a Designer plant, it must perform superbly in several growing zones, exhibit exemplary garden presence and performance, have a long season of appeal in the garden and demonstrate a greater resistance to garden pests. The good news is that this one lives up to all of the hype and more. The bad news is that there are no photos on line that do this plant justice.




'Ghost Spirit' a Surprising Perennial

One of the challenges of writing a gardening blog is to find the most appropriate picture to illustrate a topic. I have not been very successful at finding a suitable image for this entry. You will have to examine  the picture very closely to see the subtle swirling leaf variegation that caught my eye. I have deliberately oversized this image so that you might get a better look.

I first spotted Hosta Ghost Spirit in the check-out basket of a customer in line behind me at the nursery. I left the line in order to add this plant to my basket and several other customers did the same. There can be no better recommendation than that.

I purchased this plant because its leaves remind me of what happens when a baker pours chocolate batter into vanilla batter and begins to blend the two. About three quarters of the way through the process, the dark and light colored batters create misty marbling. They are not quite chocolate yet and certainly no longer vanilla. That is the best way to describe the beautiful swirling pattern that occurs on this Hosta leaf in misty blue-green and cream. I will plant it in my garden to see how it performs before including it in my repertoire of favorite perennials.

My research tells me that the leaf of this Hosta starts out white and marbles as it matures. If grown in sun, the variegation will disappear and turn to misty green. To maintain the subtle variegation, this plant needs to grow in shade.



This Perennial is Not a Clump of Grass

Armeria maritima is a short cute little plant that grows 6 to 12 inches in height and width in full sun and in dry well-drained soil. It is hardy in zones 4 through 8 and blooms on miniature lollipop sticks in shades of  rose, pink, lilac, red and white. This plant tolerates drought rather well and is adaptable to wide varieties of garden conditions including rock gardens and swimming pool areas. If you are using salt water in your pool, this plant is ideal because it is salt tolerant.

Smaller seedling clumps of Armeria should be planted at the front of the flower border or along a path where they can be seen up close to be admired. From a distance, the clump would have to be mature and wide to be noticed in the flower bed. It is a much appreciated plant because it begins flowering in April and May when few perennials are in bloom.

When not in bloom, Armeria can be mistaken for grass and might be dug up and removed in error. That is why it is recommended to allow clumps of Armeria to thicken out over time and to resist dividing the plant even though that would be beneficial. A mature clump in an almost circular shape with a vivid dark green color is a sure sign that this is not a stray seedling of grass.

This is another easy care plant with a qualification. Dividing every few years and deadheading throughout the growing season will encourage prolonged flowering.


An Easy Care Perennial for Heat and Drought.

The close up of the flower Caryopteris "Dark Night" is from North Creek Nurseries. Click on the image to visit their site.Caryopteris is a little known and under-utilized plant that is essential to gardens where summers are hot and dry. This compact border plant is considered a small shrub but performs amazingly well as a perennial. The cultivar "Dark Night", shown on the right, grows 30 inches wide and tall. Its grey-green foliage is covered in late summer with hundreds of 12 inch intensely blue flower spikes at a time when other richly colored perennials have begun to wane. This remarkable, heat tolerant plant is said to grow in Zones 5 to 8 in a dry sunny location. Yet, it is not available in some areas that are labeled zone 5.

Because all of its flowers are produced on new wood, it is recommended that the plant be cut down in autumn along with other perennials. This will force the plant to produce new flower-bearing shoots the following season. However, fertilize this plant sparingly as over-feeding will produce rampant growth with few flowers. Beware! The rampant growth is not easy to pull out.

This is a very impressive easy-care plant that will thrive in spite of neglect. Buy more than one plant because when you see it perform in late summer, you will regret not having purchased more. And by that time, it may be too late to find them at the nurseries.


A First-Frost Flower: Penstemon 'Red Rocks'.

This photo may be purchased from"".Perennials that last until the first frost are a gift for the gardener. Penstemon mexicali x "Red Rocks" is such a plant. This drought tolerant perennial, with dark evergreen leaves, grows only 15 inches tall. For what it lacks in height, it compensates in color saturation. It has been described as rose-red, magenta, and vivid-deep pink. Some have reported seeing coral-pink in the setting sun. No matter how we describe it, one cannot escape its intensity.This plant begins blooming in early summer, re- blooms in October and lasts until the first frost. For maximum enjoyment, grow it in full sun, in the front row of the flower bed. Hardy from Zones 5 to 9.

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